Tap dancing was once a respected art form, says neighbor Katelyn Harris, founder of Rhythmic Souls Tap Company. But its popularity died off in the ’50s and ’60s, she says, when “ballet and jazz rose up, and they were considered more high art forms; whereas tap was considered more a form of entertainment.”
That mindset recently shifted around the world, and Harris, a neighborhood resident, intends to change the perception of tap here in Dallas, which she believes is ready to embrace what has long been viewed as fringe art.
Dallasites are finally starting to appreciate the Dallas art community, Harris points out. Artists and dancers are starting to stay in Dallas instead of pursuing success in other cities, and Harris wants tap dancing to be a part of that movement. Already she’s snagged Dallas-born tap dancers, and with their help she hopes the rest of Dallas will rediscover tap dancing.
It should be an easy sell, she thinks, because a tap dance is deeply rooted in various cultures around the world and, ultimately, an American art form.
“A lot of people don’t realize that it came from Irish dancing, African-American slave dances and English clog,” she says. “All these things mixed together to form tap dance.”
It is to dance what jazz is to music, Harris explains.
“Things are heavily based on improv,” she says. “You’ll have the head of the tune, and that will be the basic melody. Each of the instruments [dancers] will take a solo, and they’ll improvise around that melody, but they get to go off on their own and speak whatever they want to. You have to be really present.”
In January, Harris hosted the Rhythm In Fusion Festival (RIFF), which featured tap dance fused with similar dance forms from around the world.
“The audience usually responds to tap in a really enthusiastic way,” she says. “It’s more engaging than the other dance forms.”
For more information, visit rhythmicsouls.org.
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